The New International Encyclopædia/Samaria

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SAMARIA (Heb. Shōmērōn, probably watch or guard, Aramaic Shamrayin, Gk. Σαμáρεια, Samareia, Σεμερών, Semerōn, Σομορών, Somorōn, Σεμαρεών, Semareōn, Lat. Samaria) . A city of ancient Palestine (Map: Palestine, C 3), which, early in the ninth century B.C., was made by Omri the capital of the kingdom of Israel. According to I. Kings xvi. 23-24, after reigning six years at Tirzah, Omri bought the site from one Shemer, and named the city which he built there after the original owner. It was situated on a hill of more than 300 feet elevation, isolated on all sides except the east. It was about six miles northwest of Shechem and commanded the road northward to the plain of Esdraelon and westward to the coast. It was thus well adapted for a fortified capital. Under Ahab the city became a centre of Baal worship. The Syrians laid siege to it during the reign of Ahab (I. Kings xx. 1), and again in the time of Joram (II. Kings vi. 24 et seq.), but did not capture it. It was invested by Shalmaneser, King of Assyria, and, after a siege of three years, was taken by his successor, Sargon, in B.C. 722. (See Samaritans.) Samaria was captured by Alexander the Great (B.C. 331), who killed many of the inhabitants and replaced them with Macedonian colonists. It was taken and completely destroyed by John Hyrcanus (B.C. 120), but was soon rebuilt and remained in the possession of the Jews till Pompey restored it to the descendants of the expelled Samaritans. It was fortified by Gabinius. Augustus gave the town to Herod the Great, who rebuilt it with much splendor and called it Sebaste, after the Emperor (Σεβαστή, from Σεβαστός = Augustus), Philip the Evangelist preached Christianity in Samaria (Acts viii. 5), and in the third century it was an episcopal see. A Greek bishop still derives his title from Sebaste. After the Mohammedan conquest of Palestine the importance of Sebaste declined. It is now a small village (Sebastiyeh), with but few relics of its former greatness.